MUMBAI: Four days after a massive political furore, scam-accused businessmen Kapil Wadhawan and his brother Dheeraj Wadhawan on Sunday gave their side of the story about their Thursday (April 9) trip from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar allegedly flouting lockdown norms.
The hill-station hopping trip between Pune and Satara districts sparked off a row after a senior Maharashtra IPS officer, Principal Secretary (Special) in Home Department Amitabh Gupta, granted a written permission on April 8.
While Gupta was sent on "compulsory leave", the Wadhawan brothers and 21 others have been shunted into compulsory quarantine at a Panchgani facility and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh ordered a probe into the fracas by a senior officer to be completed within 15 days.
The CBI shot off an email to the Satara police asking them not to release the Wadhawans without their permission while the ED has seized the five vehicles in which they travelled.
On Sunday, the Wadhawan brothers - named in the Yes Bank scam - issued a detailed statement through their legal firm, Rashmikant and Partners, giving their version of the entire episode and other related aspects of the probes carried out by Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
The duo said they travelled from a rented accommodation in Khandala to their ancestral home in Mahabaleshwar as they were genuinely concerned for the health of their family owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
"They also heard that there were possible Coronavirus cases in Khandala. They were in Khandala alongwith their mother, aged 70 years, who has a multitude of health problems and their respective wives and children," said the lengthy statement.
Besides, Kapil Wadhawan suffers from hypertension and was recently hospitalised while Dheeraj Wadhawan is also a heart patient who underwent emergency angioplasty in Switzerland in January 2018, and spent time in a hospital ICU in October-November 2019 for a severe lung infection, which the ED was aware of, it said.
During his interrogation by ED, Dheeraj Wadhawan again suffered chest pains for which he was admitted to Hinduja Healthcare Hospital.
"Thus, Mr. Kapil Wadhawan, Mr. Dheeraj Wadhawan and their mother were highly susceptible to the coronavirus, which could pose serious risk to their health in view of their medical conditions. Considering the circumstances, the Wadhawans thought it fit to travel further away from Khandala and Mumbai and thus decided to go to their ancestral residence in Mahabaleshwar," said the statement from Rashmikant and Partners.
When they reached their home in Mahabaleshwar, they were informed by the local authorities to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days, and later shifted to a private quarantine facility in adjoining Panchgani hillstation.
The Wadhawans also refuted speculation that they are not cooperating with the ED and CBI, are absconding or flouting lockdown rules, as "false and absurd" and claimed "none of their actions have been taken to defeat the law".
Attempting to set right the record, the Wadhawans said that the within 24 hours, the CBI issued three notices to them in March for appearance at short notice. These were notice on March 13, 2020 to appear before it on March 14 at 10 am, a notice on March 14 to appear on the same day evening, and another notice notice on March 14 for appearance on March 15.
Responding to each notice, the Wadhawans requested for consideration as they were both travelling with their mother and respective families since March 6 due to Kapil Wadhawan's health issues.
On March 15, in the last communication to the CBI by the Wadhawans, they pointed out the advisories of the Centre and state governments to avoid unnecessary travel in view of the rapid spread of coronavirus, making it inadvisable for them to return to Mumbai from Khandala.
The lawyers said even the ED had issued three summons to them - on March 10 for an appearance on March 13 morning, on March 13 for appearance on March 16 morning, and on March 16 for appearance on March 17 morning, and the Wadhawans responded akin to the CBI, seeking time to appear before the probe agency.
On March 17, the Wadhawans even sought a questionnaire about the information required by the probe agencies, but said there was no response from ED.
The Wadhawan brothers refuted all "misinformation" being spread that they are no cooperating with the ED-CBI, and said they had not "skipped" any appearances before them, as they felt comforted that their last request for accommodation' had been accepted in view of the Covid-19 pandemic threats.
he duo also reiterated that they are not linked to or concerned with the ongoing legal proceedings pertaining to the Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative Bank, and if they were trying to abscond, they would not have sought the Maharashtra government's permission to travel in their own names to their own house in Mahabaleshwar.
Rashmikant and Partners added that the Wadhawans have been in contact with all the investigations agencies and other authorities for various legal/officials matters, Kapil Wadhawan's passport is deposited with the ED while Dheeraj Wadhawan cannot travel abroad without the court's permission, so they are not a flight risk.
"In fact, they are quite anxious to join the investigation," the statement concluded.